11 Tricks to Preventing Identity Theft
Identity theft: Every American fears this plague that attacks young and old. No, identity theft is not a disease, but it can be just as crippling. Identity theft is when someone uses your personal identification to obtain credit, loans, services, even rentals and mortgages in your name. It can cost you thousands of dollars, ruin your credit, and even ruin your reputation.
Identity theft is “an absolute epidemic, " according to Robert Ellis Smith, a respected author and advocate. “It's certainly picked up in the last four or five years. It is nationwide. "
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country right now. Within the last twelve months, 9.3 million Americans have been victims of identity theft. Could you be next? Here’s what to do to prevent identity theft.
Identity Theft Prevention Tips
1) Identity Theft Prevention: Shred It All
Buy an office-quality shredder that shreds documents beyond recognition, so criminals cannot retrieve your receipts or financial information from your trash.
You should always shred:
Credit card receipts
Pre-approved credit card applications
2) Identity Theft Prevention: Beware “Shoulder Surfers” at ATMS
ATMs make you vulnerable. Make sure nobody is around when you enter your PIN to withdraw cash, and if possible, take a friend or family member with you to stand guard. Do not let anyone observe your PIN or even the amount you withdraw.
3) Identity Theft Prevention: Have Your Checkbooks Delivered to the Bank
Checkbooks sent to your house can be stolen right out of your mailbox and used. Have checkbooks sent to the bank where they will be secure, and pick them up yourself.
4) Identity Theft Prevention: Mail Checks in a Post Office Mailbox
Do not mail checks from your home mailbox; they can be stolen before the mail person picks them up and the name in the payment field changed. Drop them in secure US Postal Service mailboxes instead.
5) Identity Theft Prevention: Cancel Unused Credit Cards
If you haven’t used a credit card in 6 months, cancel it and cut it in half. Open credit accounts that aren’t used are easy targets since you aren’t necessarily keeping your eye on them.
6) Identity Theft Prevention: Use Impossible Passwords
Avoid the obvious, like your pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name, and go for something so random, so esoteric nobody would be able to casually guess it. All passwords need to be combinations of numbers and letters.
7) Identity Theft Prevention: Use a Locking Mailbox
Keep criminals from stealing your mail, which could contain important personal information. 8) Identity Theft Prevention: Call Back
If a phone marketer calls claiming to be a company you shop from and asks for your personal information, tell them you will call them back before you give them any information. By calling them back, you should be able to confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate company.
9) Identity Theft Prevention: Protect Your Social Security Number
You are never required to give out your social security number. If a business wishes to use it as a manner of secure identification, tell them you would rather select a random number instead. The government grants you that right.
10) Identity Theft Prevention: Lock Up Your Social Security Number
Put your social security card in a safe. Do not carry it in your wallet where it could be stolen.
11) Identity Theft Prevention: Keep a Close Eye
Watch your bank and credit card statements like a hawk. Act on any suspicious activity immediately.
Identity theft is indeed an epidemic, but if you protect your information carefully and destroy all documents that include information useful to thieves, you are less likely to fall victim. In the event a thief does steal your information, there are systems in place to deal with the mess. But the best way to handle identity theft is to avoid it in the first place, and now you are armed with 11 handy steps to keeping your identity safe.
Ralph Winn publishes articles, guides and reviews on many topics about Home Security . Where you can find out more about Security Monitoring and articles on Home Security Systems .